Finance Ministry resurrects Phuket convention center plan

PHUKET, MAI KHAO: Deputy Minister of Finance Pruttichai Damrongrat on January 23 visited the proposed site for an international convention center in Mai Khao, saying the project would fit in nicely with government plans to help the Andaman region’s ailing tourism economy.

Accompanying Mr Pruttichai on the visit were Phuket MP Tossaporn Thepabutr, Phuket Vice-Governor Smith Palawatwichai and Praphat Sriyanaluck, head of the Phuket Provincial Treasury Office that controls the 150-rai site through the Treasury Department’s “Ratchapassadu” office.

Mr Pruttichai said the seaside site was appropriate because of its views, proximity to the airport and good information technology infrastructure in the area.

Local people are also in favor of the project, which would create jobs and generate revenue for the local economy, he said.

The government envisions a full-scale center at the site, similar to the Queen Sirikit Center in downtown Bangkok or Impact, Mueang Thong Thani in Nonthaburi, he said.

Project funding is still under consideration. Under one option, it would be developed with direct government funding starting in fiscal 2010. Other options include co-investment with a private sector group or setting up an agency under the Finance Ministry to be responsible.

Noting that the project has been studied in various formats for well over a decade, Mr Pruttichai said these studies should be used if possible, but that further review was needed due to the change in prices over time.

A much larger Mai Khao site was chosen in October 2007 for the project by a panel headed by then-governor Niran Kalayanamit.

The project appeared set to move forward with private sector funding from ING Funds (Thailand), but like many megaprojects it got held up due to political instability in the capital.

Mr Tossaporn Thepabutr said he expects a government budget of between 200 and 300-million baht to be made available in 2010 for a feasibility and environmental impact study.

The proposed 150-rai area should be doubled in order to surround the center with green areas that would make the facility more attractive, he said.

Phuket News

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